Russia has captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels – two small armored artillery boats and a tugboat – following the Kerch Strait confrontation with Russian Coast Guard vessels, the Ukrainian Navy has confirmed.
The statement released by the Navy in Facebook added that it had information about two wounded Ukrainian military sailors.
Due to “extraordinary events” that happened in the Kerch Strait, the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, has called a military cabinet.
The confrontation started in the morning when a Russian Coast Guard ship, Don, rammed an Ukrainian Navy tugboat, Yana Kapu, in the Kerch Strait between Russia and Crimea. Yana Kapu, along with two small armored artillery boats, named Berdyansk and Nikopol, were transiting from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait following a homeport change.
The Ukrainian Navy ships were confronted by Russian Coast Guard vessels including a Project 745P Sorum-class seagoing tug, named Don; Suzdalets corvette; Project 12200 Sobol class patrol boats and Project 12150 Mangust class patrol boats. The Russian Coast Guard is part of the Border Guard Service of Russia under the Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB).
According to the Ukrainian Navy statement, Don has rammed the Ukrainian tug and as a result the main engine of the ship, hull, and guardrail was damaged. FSB’s Crimean border department said in a statement that the Ukrainian Navy vessels entered the waters illegally and deliberately provoked the conflict.
Following the ramming incident, Russia blocked off the strait by positioning a tanker ship under the Kerch bridge, connecting Russia with Crimea. Dozens of cargo ships which were awaiting passage are now stuck.
According to the Ukrainian Navy, the Russian service members later open fired on U175 Berdyansk, one of the Gyurza-M class artillery boats involved in the confrontation, wounding at least one sailor. The Navy statement added at that time that the vessel was damaged with a lost engine following the incident.